tv Tavis Smiley PBS January 18, 2012 12:00am-12:30am PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. this is 90 two of our conversation about how we address party. it is called "remaking america." we have oscar-winning filmmaker michael moore, suze orman, cornell west, majora carter, vicki escarra, and roger clay. we're glad you have joined us for night two of our conversation. remaking america is coming up right now. [applause] >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all
know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. answer, nationwide insurance is and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> the w. k. kellogg organization. learn more at>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers likethank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> and let me come -- tavis: let me come back to you first, dr. west. gwenn vicki says we need leadership, we are sitting in washington right now and i know at least 535 people who think they are leaders.
i know another guy at the end of pennsylvania who definitely thinks he is a leader. that is 536. there are some folks in this town who regard themselves as leaders. if what we're lacking with regard to making poverty a priority in this country is leadership, why is it then, that there seems to be a bipartisan consensus in this town that the poor do not matter? >> i hope you all noticed the tears in sister vicious -- sister vickie's eyes at the presentation. the tears have to do with someone who cares. the tears have to do with recognizing the condition of poor people in america is a matter of national security, like iraq, like afghanistan, like what ever foreign policy that we know. [applause] part of a problem in america is we do not have elected leaders
who understand the tears. if we do not come to terms with it, then it is not the external threat. it is the internal rot that is going to lead to the collapse of american democracy into an oligarchy, a plutocracy where the well-to-do live and working people and poor people are at each other's throats and america goes under as we know it. one of the reasons why we do not have the leadership among the 536 is that they are leading. they are not leading in such a way that they make poor and working people a priority. when investment bankers are in trouble, they lead. they solve the problem. [applause] here is trillions of dollars. when the banking system is in process -- in trouble, they lead. action, right away, they go to war. your not going to pay for it?
nope. [laughter] that sort if leadership is myopic, shortsighted, narrow. what we need is courageous, prophetic leadership. and the truth is this, that historically in america, it has been primarily the black prophetic tradition that provided that leadership precisely because you had a people enslaved, jim crowed with terror and trauma and stigma, but still top the country are -- to talk to the country how to love. [applause] it is not a stereotype. you are of a tradition that has taught america about -- the best about itself. you talk about justice even when revenge is coming at you. that is spiritual purit. it is not just a political
question. and [applause] we have 535 leaders in washington that are so obsessed with power and money. they are looking at where they're going to get money for the next election. when it comes to looking at the morals and providing for children of all colors, all they can think about is the election and that is back to business as usual. >> they are not leaders. [applause] it is so brilliant, what you just said. let's redefine the term. these 536 -- and let's throw by been in there, too. don't leave him out. -- joe biden in there, too. don't leave him out. [laughter] it is 537. they are not leaders. they are followers. they do what they are told by the people who pay them to do these things. [applause] as long as we have money in
politics, it is going to be so hard on to do any of these things that we want to do in this town. they are just the servants to wall street. wall street says, here, do this, like "park my car." [laughter] my soup is cold. and get me some more soup. that is what they are, really. they are waiters and servants. that is why the occupy movement is not called occupy washington d.c. is called occupy wall street. we are tired of going to the public. we are now at the puppet masters. [applause] that is where we have to be. tavis: it raises a fundamental question, barbara. if michael is right, and i agree with him and i think he is.
then both parties are beholden to wall street. we are now in a presidential race and mr. obama is raising money as fast from wall street as mr. romney is, if he turns out to be the nominee. if they are both old and to wall street, and a matter what they say about the contributions, what do we do? -- no matter what they say about the contributions, what do we do? >> i want to see a discussion moved past the leaders. whoever we are talking about. we took a huge leap in the last few months. when we had for the first time -- not the first time, i should say. it happened before in the women's movement. but a leaderless movement. a proud and leaderless movement. what does that mean? was that crazy? was that not? -- next? no, that meant everybody becomes a leader. we have discovered something in the last few months, which is
much bigger than any individual, leader or otherwise, and that is, the power of solidarity. people working together. you are not going to defend your house against a sheriff or a banker when foreclosure time comes all by yourself with a shotgun. that is when you need hundreds of people that is when you need scores and hundreds of people, when you are being evicted from your apartment. it is a strong part of the american tradition, the union movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement. but it has been erased from a culture that says "you can get yours all by yourself pure go do not hang out with losers. get to be a leader -- you can get yours all by yourself. do not hang out with losers. get to be a leader." no, we will go with the strength of "we."
tavis: when you suggest that people can live themselves out of poverty if they have the right tools, i get what you mean. but unpack that for me. and what kinds of tools are missing from the toolbox of poor people? >> to come out of property and you also need help. need to believe you can come out of poverty. the tool that i think is important that i am trying to work on right now -- i do not know if i will be successful. it seems like many people do not want me to be successful with this endeavor. but the main thing i want to change in the united states of america that truly affects the scores.r ficao [applause] the way they used to be calculated what a lot different time than we are in now -- was a
lot of time than we are in now. what i'm trying to get people to do is to pay in cash or on that. i do not know if you know it, but if you pay in cash or on a debit card, it does not report to a credit bureau, and therefore, you do not have a score. uri non-entity. you do not exist in the financial system at all -- you are a nonentity. you do not exist in the financial system at all. i am trying to change things, so that we can get rid of credit cards altogether. [applause] when you are tempted to do something, when it comes to money, you tend to. i want to get that out. and i want to go back to being america with a cash society for everyday things and then build up your fico scores are you can one day have a car, a home, you can one day get that job or rent
an apartment because you are now an entity because you have been paying with what you have verses what you wish you have. [laughter] [applause] i am trying to do something that is a little out of my ordinary, and nobody wants me to do it. they want to keep everybody down, so the people who take advantage can continue to do so. i will not let them. i will continue to fight for you. [applause] and in two years time from this date, if this works, you will be able to get a credit score simply if you have a debit card. that is my goal. [applause] tavis: majora? >> my thing is, how do we make poor people less support? jesus said, the poor will always be among us. i do not think he meant that
they had to stay that way. [applause] that is where we need to start thinking within the confines of the system that we are in right now. what can we do to help our leaders have a vision? how do we people leaders with vision ourselves? and show there is another way of doing things. that is what we need to be talking about, in ways that are practical, because ultimately, i am a practical girl current with all of the vision i have, i am practical. -- i am practical. with all of the vision i have, i am practical. what people do not necessarily with the idea of gentrification and displacement in a bunch of different ways. because what people talk about in so many different ways is usually, oh, my gosh, you are going to push the poor people out.
you have to keep places for poor people. poor people do not like living in poor places. [laughter] can we talk very seriously about that? [applause] why aren't we thinking about different ways to say, we are not going to abolish capitalism tomorrow. but we can come up with ways to create opportunity in our inner cities, in the port areas, in the rural areas that need that support and help move them out of poverty, so we are not talking about them like this thing that is demonized and criminalize. but actually allowing them to move into the american dream. [applause] there is a lot of stuff -- >> there is a lot of support for people moving out of poverty. in most states, to fill out a food stamp application, it is 13 pages. it is easier to get a gun.
can you imagine being a single mother going into the food stamp outreach office while you are working and having to rush through filling out a food stamp application? we cannot even seem to organize around the simplification of a of a form like a food stamp application. simplification of benefits is something we could work on. politicians, especially new politicians, do not look at the individuals they are affecting. they do not look at the human being. they do not know the stories behind the people. they do not know the families they are affecting. they do not know how hard people are trying to work to get out of poverty. they look at the numbers and they say, oh, we can cut 5% out of food stamps. it will not matter if we cut a box of food away from someone making $60 a month so that we look at cutting 5000 caseloads.
you try going to a senior citizen in michigan and saying, we cannot give you a food box. that is reality. [applause] tavis: roger clay, want to come back to you and i want to ask something that is a bit in politics. to many americans, as we have already discussed, are suffering in poverty. the group that is being hurt the most and hit the hardest, the numbers say clearly, are african-americans. you live and work in oakland. it is an african-american, a predominantly african-american city, and there are other pockets of african-american communities across this country. frankly, black people right now forecasting the most help. and yet, to my mind, black people, lovingly and respectfully, are the most silent about the help they are catching. i am not naive about this. i understand why that is.
it is because of our love and our deference and our support legitimately of barack hossein obama as president. i am not naive about that. but i want to put this out there because i'm curious as to whether or not -- to the point about the historical power in the black prophetic tradition, if the people catching the most hell are not saying anything. and given -- and are getting the guy who happens to be president at the moment cover, how about the of the people in poverty who are trying to raise their courage to raise their own voices? we have done this historically as a nation as black people. what happens if we continue to be as silent as we are? and i'm not saying the president has to be demonized or that we have to cast aspersions. i'm saying that the people that are catching the most hell are
doing it in silence. it was the pain threshold really afford -- it makes me wonder what the pain threshold really is for black folks. >> i am extremely disappointed, more so than i ever thought i could be. i think part of the reason i am disappointed is that i had hoped for a lot. part of it is the disparity between what he has done and what i had hoped. some of my hope was probably based on unrealistic expectations. [applause] even though i am very disappointed -- i was born when roosevelt was president. i actually do not think there has been a better president for our people since i have been alive after him. [applause]
but i mixed. but because he is black, i still have a very high expectations. i think there are some things that are very well done. i think he has done some things that are -- that they did -- that are well done that they do not say much about. my biggest disappointment, back to the leadership, i do not see leadership on the issue. i do not see him speaking out on the issue and i do not think he will go all around talking about race. but i do think you have to talk about issues that affect black people. and not just black people. we are the canary. it's one of the difficulties now is looking at the alternatives. you really do not know. it would you rather have him or one of those others? i am pretty clear on the republican side what i would rather have. i would rather have barack obama. [applause] my hope is that he does get
reelected. but that because it will be his last term -- at least those first two years -- he will turn out to be a great president. right now, he is a so-so president. i do think we have to keep the pressure on. i'm glad there are people like the two of you that can go out and say it. because that is not what all of our roles are. you are in the media. you do that. but i do not think if he gets reelected and there is not substantial change that there -- that people will be quiet at all. because of that, people are going to be not supportive of even the democratic party. tavis: let's take a step further. black people are catching the most held amongst the president's base. - catching the most hell
amongst the president's base. and they are his biggest supporters, clearly. but there is a larger issue here. the democrats more broadly, collect more broadly, progressives more broadly. how do you lovingly, respectfully pushed the leader of the free world to say and to do more about poverty? i take rogers point and i would never ask the president to walk around talking about black, black, black. that is not be asked. but when americans of all color and race and gender and ethnicity, etc. -- when all of us, too many of us, are now falling into poverty, it does raise the question about what he is doing, and to lovingly and respect to push him to use his bully pulpit to say more about
the poor and do more about poverty. do you have any brilliant idea about how we go about doing that, sir? >> yes. [laughter] i have an optimistic answer. do you remember on election day of 2008? everybody remember going into that voting booths? i looked down at that balance and i saw this man's name, and i never thought in my lifetime i would ever have a chance to do what i was about to do and vote for him. i cheered up. did anybody else have that experience -- i teared up. did anybody else have that experience? >> it was just such an emotional day. if we had gone to eight years of our country being driven down the toilet. [applause] we had just gone through eight
years of after the world feeling our pain, and being on our side turning against us after we became a country that invaded other countries. and to finally have someone who was going to stand up to this. and yes, you are right about the expectations and the rose colored glasses, because we also knew that goldman sachs was his number one contributor. but we thought, it does not matter because we know the man has a good heart. he still has a good heart. we know his conscience. we know his concept -- we know his wife's conscience. we know his family. [applause] i do not despair about this. i am profoundly disappointed. those tears on election day have continued through these past three years. [laughter] but here is what i like to say,
just in case he were here live right now -- we are just a few blocks from the white house. just in case he is watching, what camera would he be on? [laughter] president obama, here is the deal. republicans have done us a huge favor. they run the circus. i will seriously never understand why wall street did not actually put up somebody to remove you, because they are not entirely happy with you. but they have not run anybody who is going to beat you. [applause] therefore, without jinxing the election, without providing take for fox news to run the day after the election -- [laughter] -- let me just say, i think
there is a pretty good chance you are going to win this election. [applause] therefore, let's not waste and lose another year before addressing the issues we are discussing on the stage tonight. [applause] you do not have to worry. you are going to have another four years and you have the opportunity to be the roosevelt of the 21st century -- [applause] -- to be remembered through our history as the person who brought this country to the place where we should be. even though we were born with these original sins of genocide and slavery, that somehow it took this african-american to bring us to the moral place that we always knew we could be. and to help create the american dream for every person that suze is talking about. so that they can wake up every
morning knowing that i'd put in an eight hour day and i get to own home and drive my own car and send my kids to college. that is all we are asking for. [applause] >> that is all we have time for tonight. but join us again tomorrow night for the final segment of this conversation. you can also catch the full conversation by going any time to our website at pbs.org. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a third and final night of our conversation, "remaking america to prosperity."
that is next time. see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> w. k. kellogg foundation. engaging communities to improve the lives of vulnerable children. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]